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November 11, 2010 - Image 4

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4A - Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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Edited and managed by students at
the University ofMichigan since 1890.
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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu

Our American contradiction

JACOB SMILOVITZ
EDITOR IN CHIEF

RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

MATT AARONSON
MANAGING EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
The purple state.
Snyder must encourage bipartisanship in Lansing
fter eight years of being a blue state, Michigan residents
will have a Republican governor come January. Rick
Snyder - who won last week's election by sticking to a
platform based on moderation - is an interesting politician in an
era with rigid party lines. It appears that Snyder is delivering on
his promises. On Monday, he announced that he would appoint
current Speaker of the House Andy Dillon - a Democrat - as his
treasurer. By appointing a prominent Democrat to his cabinet,
Snyder has made an effort to instill an atmosphere of bipartisan-
ship in Lansing. Snyder must continue to display his moderate
stance and the legislature should follow his example.

s I think about the results of
lastweek's election, I've found
myself in a sort of haze trying
to piece together
where we stand as
a society. It's not
that I'm surprised
that the political
pendulum swung
to the right last
Tuesday, Anyone
who's picked up a
newspaper in the
past few months MATTHEW
could've seen that GAE E W
coming. But what's GREEN
troubling is that
this post-election
political atmosphere has left us with
fewer answers - and more confusion
- about our identity as a nation,
There's an African American in the
White House, but come January there
won't be a single person of color in the
U.S. Senate. Women will constitute
roughly the same proportion in Con-
gress as they do now - slightly fewer
than twenty percent. But with more
Republican women than before, the
already tenuous legislative support
for reproductive rights will probably
wane. And with the election of David
Cicilline (D-R.I) to the U.S. House of
Representatives, there will be more
openly gay congresspeople next Janu-
ary than ever before. Nevertheless,
our next Congress will be even less
likely than our current one to support
the rights of the LGBTQ community.
Contradictions have certainly been,
part of American politics ever since
our slaveholding forefathers tried to
ingrain freedom and equality as part
of our political discourse. But as we
enter into another chapter of democ-
racy, the contradictions before us are
particularly confounding.
And it's not just in terms of civil
rights. The New York Times reported
last week that while the wealthiest

1 percent of Americans controlled
9 percent of all income in 1976, that
same 1 percent controls 24 percent
of income today. Times columnist
Nicholas Kristof went on to say that,
"From 1980 to 2005, more than four-
fifths of the total increase in Ameri-
can incomes went to the richest I
percent." Yet, in spite of this back-
drop, our current lame-duck Congress
seems poised to extend the Bush-era
tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
And a more conservative Congress
will probably continue to neglect this
extraordinary income inequality,
focusing instead on creating new tax
breaks for the upper crust.
it doesn't matter that the motives of
these politicians are perfectly plain to
see. The point is that as a nation, we're
constantly pulled right and left and
the divisions between us are wide and
confusing. It's increasingly difficult to
say who's right and what actions our
politicians ought to take. If there was
any question before the election, Pres-
ident Barack Obama now officially has
the hardest job in the country, as the
head of a democracy that can't figure
out who or what it is.
As I ponder today's 92nd anni-
versary of the end of World War I, I
have to wonder how far we've come
since that time. It was during that
era - another period of confusion
and gross contradiction - that Presi-
dent Woodrow Wilson enunciated
his dream "to make the world safe for
democracy." And ever since, Wilson's
words have hung like a self-awarded
medal on the breast of American for-
eign policy. But let's not forget that
when Wilson uttered those words,
no women and only some black men
could actually participate in the
democracy that the president had
hoped to bring to the world.
In the past century, we've fought
wars - which continue today - for
the stated purpose of defending free-

dom and popular rule. And for this
column at least, I'll give our govern-
ment the benefit of the doubt that
their campaign for democracy was
well intentioned. Yet, it seems rather
obvious by now that at least part of the
reason why we've failed at promot-
ing democracy abroad is that our own
democratic ethos at home is so ambig-
uous. We act on preferences rather
than principles. The result is a culture
of contradiction.
Recent elections
have left us once
again confused.
In the face of such inconsistency,
exemplified by this most recent elec-
tion, it would be easy to grow disil-
lusioned about politics or about our
ability to bring about social change.
Indeed, our politicians have largely
failed us. And even if you're happy
about this past election, you're proba-
bly not optimistic about political prog-
ress following anytime soon.
As students at the University,
we're presented with the inspiring
and daunting reality that in a couple
decades or sooner, we - or at least
our contemporaries - will replace the
current ineffectual generation of poli-
ticians. Rather than getting turned
off from politics, we need to pay more
attention than ever. It will be up to us
to answer the complex questions that
our parents' generation have created
or ignored. And as we form our opin-
ions and consider different careers,
more than ever, we have a responsibil-
ity to do just that.
- Matthew Green can be reached
at greenmat@umich.edu,

According to a Nov. 9 article in the Daily,
governor-elect Rick Snyder announced two
appointments to his cabinet on Monday at
the Ford School of Public Policy. He appoint-
ed Dick Posthumus - the Republican who
served as lieutenant governor under for-
mer Gov. John Engler - as his senior advi-
sor and Andy Dillon as treasurer. Dillon
ran in the 2010 gubernatorial election as
a Democrat and was defeated by Lansing
Mayor Virg Benero in the primaries. bur-
ing the announcement of the appointments
on Monday, Snyder stressed that Posthumus
and Dillon were chosen on the basis of their
experience, not their party affiliation, say-
ing, "Let's stop fighting over the extremes
and recognize Michigan is ina crisis."
Botl Posthumus and Dillon have signifi-
cant experience in state politics. Posthumus
has already spent four years in the gover-
nor's office during Engler's term. He has
also served as the Michigan Senate major-,
ity leader and held the position longer than
anyone in the state's history. Dillon has
spent six years in the state House of Rep-
resentatives and has been speaker for the
last four. These individuals bring necessary
public service experience to the table that
Snyder should make full use of - especially
considering his lack thereof.
Snyder's appointment of a Democrat to

his cabinet is almost unheard of. It cer-
tainly hasn't been done in recent memory.
By appointing Dillon, Snyder demonstrat-
ed his willingness to reach across party
lines to achieve progress. When he takes
office, Snyder shouldn't get caught up in
bureaucratic politics and lose sight of the
importance of cooperation., He needs to
maintain his moderate platform and apply
this spirit of bipartisanship to the legisla-
tion he proposes.
Members of both political parties know
that drastic change is needed. As Dillon said
on Monday - and Snyder enforced by his
appointments - the only concrete way to
enact structural changes is to get rid of party
labels and work together. Snyder and Dillon
have demonstrated that they are willing to
put aside their political differences in order
to make dynamic changes for the state's
recovery. The state legislature should follow
their example.
Snyder's choice for treasurer has shown
his commitment to moderation and bipar-
tisanship. He should continue to utilize the
experience of both parties. But the true test
of a cooperative spirit will come when poli-
cies are brought before the legislature and
the governor's desk. Lansing should create a
custom of bipartisanship to produce legisla-
tion that will strengthen Michigan.

the
podium

Around Campus: Jeremy Levy laments that he'll have to fork over the
big bucks for paper towels now that Village Corner has closed - and
that the beloved campus store will be replaced with a luxury high-rise.
Go to michigandaily.com/blogs/The Podium.

Stand up for the Pledge

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Readers are encouraged to submit letters to the editor. Letters should be
fewer than 300 words and must include the writer's full name and University
affiliation. Letters are edited for clarity, length and factual accuracy. All
submissions become property of the Daily. We do not print anonymous letters.
Send letters to tothedaily@umich.edu.
ASHLEY GRIESSHAMMER |
No excuse for drunk driving

n one of my first days in the
sixth-grade classroom where
I'm observing this semester as
part of the School
of Education's cer-
tification program,
I was mildly sur- .
prised to see that
the children say
the Pledge of Alle-
giance each morn-'
ing. I raised my
eyebrows at a cus- 4
tom that I thought RACHEL
had gone out of VANGILER
style, but dutifully
got to my feet,
placed my hand
over my heart and joined in.
Many of the children stood up
and recited the Pledge with me. But
at least a third of the students in the
room remained seated during the
Pledge. The amount of students that
remained seated really surprised -
and annoyed - me.
There's been controversy over the
words of the Pledge for about as long
as I can remember. Most of the debate
has focused around the inclusion of
the words "under God." It's a debate
that gets people pretty fired up - as
most debates about religion do. To
pacify the masses, many schools have
said that saying the "under God" part
is optional when reciting the pledge
- which seems reasonable, since com-
mitment to the U.S. should have noth-
ing to do with one's religious views.
In more recent years, some of the
controversy has shifted to focus on
whether or not schools can require
students to say the Pledge at all, and
if it can require them to stand. The
argument is that schools shouldn't
force their students to swear loyalty to
anything, especially considering that
students can come from a wide variety

of ethnic, national or religious back-
grounds that may prohibit them from
saying the Pledge.
There are good reasons to not say
the Pledge. There are even good rea-
sons to make the choice to remain
seated. But I don't believe that the
sixth graders were making some sort
of grand gesture to protest against
injustice or that most of them had a
religious obligation that prohibited
them from reciting the Pledge. At
their age, their conceptions of moral-
ity just haven't developed enough to
truly understand the implications of
devotion to a nation. Rather, it seemed
that they were exercising their right
to stay seated simply because they
could and without real consideration
of what remaining seated meant.
The discussion of the Pledge in
schools is more often one of why stu-
dents have the choice to say it and
to stand, rather than a discussion of
the meaning of the Pledge - both in
the words it includes and the impor-
tance it carries. Once students are old
enough to understand that the Pledge
is a solemn oath to remain loyal to the
nation, they should also understand
that they should have the common
courtesy to respect others' choice to
make that oath - even though they
are not required to make it them-
selves. Standing up during the Pledge
is a sign of that courtesy.
It's not just the Pledge. It ticks me
off when people at football games
in the Big House can't shut up long
enough for the band to play the
National Anthem as the Tri-Service
ROTC Color Guard raises the flag -
and that's only a few minutes. I glare
when people don't take off their caps.
At times like these, fans are offered
the opportunity to extend their loy-
alty to a team to loyalty to a nation
- which I guess makes particularly

good sense at a publically-funded uni-
versity. But I digress.
The point is that standing up while
the Pledge is recited or taking off your
cap and remaining silent during the
National Anthem is, if nothing else, a
sign of respect for something that so
many people hold so dear.
It's disrespectful-to
remain seated just
because you can.

If you've ever visited a house of
worship for a religion that you don't
belong to, you might get where I'm
coming from. in these cases, during
services, outsiders remain in a posture
of reflection and respectful silence.
They stand when the rest of the group
stands, they sit when the rest of the
group sits. They don't need to - and
probably shouldn't - recite prayers
they don't understand or believe in.
But they do need to recognize that
what's happening is fundamental to
their friends'belief system.
For a lot of people, the Pledge hasan
importance similar to the importance
of a prayer. Granted, few people treat
patriotism exactly like a religion. But
many do treat it as a guiding principle
of life. And it's a slap in the face to
these people to simply disregard the
belief that they hold so strongly. Stu-
dents and adults alike have the right to
not say the Pledge if they don't believe
in it. But they should have the respect
to stand up.
- Rachel Van Gilder is the Daily's
editorial page editor. She can be
reached at rachelvg@umich.edu.

Michigan has just put into place a new law per-
taining to drunk driving that creates a category
of penalties for drivers operating a vehicle with
a blood alcohol content of .17 or higher. Under
the new law, a BAC level that is twice the current
legal limit will lead to penalties that are twice as
harsh. If drivers are caught with a BAC of .17 or
higher, their jail time and the duration of their
license suspension doubles. I'm thrilled to see
these higher penalties and would like to see even
more in the future.
Drunk driving is a civil offense that I find
unforgivable. It is a motorist's responsibility to
keep him or herself and others safe. I simply can't
understand why anyone would ever choose to
operate a vehicle while under the influence and
deliberately take such a huge risk. They're not
only endangering their own lives, but also taking
the lives of others around them into their own
drunken hands.
I know that this has been said to all of us a
million times before. Yet, people still continue to
drink and drive. And until someone in your fam-
ily has been affectedby drunk driving, it's impos-
sible to understand the consequences.
When my mom was 18 years old, she was a vic-
tim in a motorcycle accident. While driving down
M-40, a main county road on the west side of the
state, she was hit by a drunk driver. Though her
recollection of the events isn't clear, she knows
what happened from what others have told her.
The drunk driver was leaving a wedding recep-
tion and failed to look before pulling out of the
reception hall, causing the collision. My mom
was thrown from the motorcycle. After that, all

she can remember is waking up in the hospital
bed. She suffered a broken leg, a broken arm and,
essentially, a broken face. All of her facial bones
and her jaw had to be reconstructed. She suf-
fered through three weeks in a hospital, six more
weeks of recovery at home and three additional
months before making a full recovery. The ordeal
caused her to miss her senior year of high school
and countless other opportunities.
I'm sharing this story to show people just how
much one person's irresponsible decision can
affect someone else's life. Knowing what hap-
pened to my own mother has made me adamant-
ly against drunk driving. I will forever refuse to
drive after having even one drink because that
one drink still impairs your driving ability.
Michigan's new law is one I fully agree with.
If someone has consumed more than twice the
legal limit of alcohol, their judgment and motor
skills are severely depleted. In this condition,
they are basically incapable of doing anything.
While any level of alcohol in your system
makes it dangerous to drive, I'm happy to see that
the state has recognized that the level of intoxi-
cation corresponds with the severity of a driver's
impairment. obviously, it is far more dangerous
to drive at a BAC level of .17 than at a level of .08.
I support the state's decision to have different
levels of punishment. But I would like to see an
increase in the severity of consequences across
the board for drunk driving offenses. Mixing
alcohol and driving is a far more risky and dan-
gerous combination than many people think.
Ashley Griesshammer is an LSA freshman.

4

SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@UMICH.EDU

Students can aid in fixing public with cooperation from the Department of Sociology and
the Ginsberg Center, sends students into Detroit to teach
debate skills to public school students who have no expe-
rience with the activity.
But the program is about a lot more than teaching
TO THE DAILY: debate. it's about introducing a new culture and mindset
into the Detroit school system - one in which those who
This week, columnist Libby Ashton discussed the do research, put in hard work and become confident in
documentary "Waiting for Superman" and encouraged their public speaking abilities are winners By creating a
re-evaluating what works in American public schools framework for education in which a sort of points system
(Together, we can be Superman, 11/09/2010). is placed on learning, students begin to see their educa- 4
What the American education system needs is not a tion in a whole new light.
"Superman," but rather a generation of American stu- As a member of DUDE, after just two months in the
dents who see it as "cool" to be someone who stands out classroom, I have witnessed this transformation in doz-
in the classroom or someone who knows the answers and ens of students who are constantly pushing themselves to
always comes to class prepared. Without this mental- learn - not only because someone is telling them to, but
ity, the system will never get better. Ifa student's peers, also because they want to do it for themselves. I am con-
teachers and parents don't recognize and reward those fident that if the program expands, we can have a signifi-
who attempt to succeed, American education will con- cant impact on the way education is conceptualized. It's 4
tinue to decline. no Superman, but it's a start.
Fortunately, there is a solution that is especially rel-
evant to University students: the Detroit Urban Debate David Seidman
Education program, often called DUDE. The program, LSA freshman

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Jordan Birnholtz, Will Butler, Eaghan Davis,
Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer, Will Grundler, Jeremy Levy, Erika Mayer,
Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga, Tommaso Pavone, Leah Potkin,
Roger Sauerhaft, Asa Smith, Laura Veith, Andrew Weiner

"
i

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